Experts say the flu season which begins this fall is going to be a bad one, not so much in how widespread the disease will be, but in how we can medically cope with a double whammy of respiratory disease. With the healthcare system already overburdened by the coronavirus battle, experts worry influenza victims will be especially vulnerable.
“If hospitals are already full of coronavirus patients, where are the influenza patients going to go?” asks Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association and an allergist in Fort Worth. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the AMA will launch a massive campaign along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage Americans to get their flu shot.
Since the symptoms of COVID-19 mimic the those of the flu, people will have to get two tests to determine the correct course of treatment. Experts worry, if people get both diseases at the same time, the complications might be worse, especially for the elderly and people with chronic underlying health issues.
William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), worries that people who fear contracting COVID-19 might shy away from getting vaccinated.
“We’re very concerned about that,” he said, according to the Inquirer. “There’s a need to get the flu shot, but there are barriers to getting it done.”
Schaffner says it is best to wait until September or October to get the flu shot so it lasts for the entire season.
According to NBC News, some experts predict our efforts to contain double COVID-19 might positively affect our flu season. Washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks might reduce the spread of influenza.
“If we look at what they’ve been seeing in Australia, and we use the Southern Hemisphere to predict what our next season is going to be, they’ve had a quieter flu season,” Kristen Englund, M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic told NBC. “We think it’s because people have been using measures to prevent COVID-19.”
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, during the 2019-2020 U.S. flu season, there were as many as 56,000 cases, requiring up to 740,000 hospitalizations. The flu might have caused the deaths of 62,000 Americans.
The shot is an easy way to protect against the flu.
“This year, we will still see people die as a result of influenza and we want to prevent as many of those deaths as possible,” Dr. Joseph Teel, a family medicine specialist at Penn Medicine, told the Inquirer.
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